Students ready for holiday music, food and good company

Georgia State students are getting ready for the holiday music, food and company. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Cold weather, long-awaited reunions and warm meals define the holiday season. This year may include more computer screens and video calls, but the holiday spirit lives on.

When senior Zuri Nelson considers Christmas, she thinks about holiday music and hanging candy canes on the tree with her family, adding, “I just love everything about Christmas.” 

Nelson’s favorite part of the holiday is Christmas Eve. Her family has a tradition of making hot chocolate, hot dogs and s’mores while watching “A Christmas Story.”

Ever since she was a kid, her family has donned pajamas and watched a movie that she “could probably quote word-for-word the entire time [she is] watching it.”

She cherishes the tradition and recalls one year when her parents tried to change the night’s plans.

“There was this one year that my parents were trying to go to a Christmas party that was on Christmas Eve, and I literally started crying,” Nelson said. “[Now I think,] ‘Zuri, you had no business crying at 13 years old about that.’ That was the last time my parents ever tried to break the tradition.”

The pandemic hasn’t altered Nelson’s holiday plans, but senior Sam Cohen plans to stay in Atlanta for Hanukkah and light a menorah over video chat with his family.

A menorah features nine candles. The middle candle is lit on the first night and is used to light one candle each night. In the second century B.C., a group of Jewish rebels known as the Maccabees had enough oil to light a menorah for one night, but the flame stayed alive for eight nights. 

For Cohen, the holiday represents “another Jewish miracle.” 

He usually goes home to celebrate the first and eighth night of Hanukkah. Otherwise, he celebrates on-campus with the Gamma Alpha chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity or organizations like Hillel. Cohen fills his eight days with songs, gifts and a sense of togetherness.

“[At home], we turn off all the electronics and talk for a little bit, and I feel like it’s a good time for all of us to tune out and celebrate the holiday,” Cohen said. “It’s something special. It’s probably one of my favorite holidays.”

Reuniting with others is his favorite part of the season, adding, “It’s like a good time of unity between everyone.”

Kwanzaa, founded by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966, emphasizes family, community and culture. Kwanzaa is celebrated internationally, predominantly by people of African descent. According to the Atlanta Regional Kwanzaa Association, the celebration lasts seven days, ending on Jan. 1, and includes songs and dances, drums and a large traditional African meal. 

Every night, families gather to light one candle on the candle holder, called a Kinara. Each candle represents one of the seven principles, which translated are: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.

The holidays are a time to take a well-deserved break, indulge in good food and wish for snow. Even if there are a few changes this year, take the time to pick out a Christmas tree, grab a menorah or Kinara and fulfill longtime traditions.